Every new year we begin to think of new habits we want to adopt in our lives. We’re encouraged to think this way from ads and people. However, let’s think a little differently this year. Don’t just focus on what new habit or goal you want to add. Think of, and identify, things you need to continue doing. There are plants of things you’re doing well right now. Don’t neglect those things or overlook them. Growth happens when we build on a foundation we already have. Be careful not to drop something productive that you’re already doing when you try to introduce something new.
Here are some Bible verses on things we should continue doing.
1. In the same way you received Jesus our Lord and Messiah by faith, continue your journey of faith, progressing further into your union with him!
Colossians 2:6 TPT
2. But as for you, continue in the truths that you were taught and firmly believe.
2 Timothy 3:14 GNT
3. But we will [continue to] devote ourselves [steadfastly] to prayer and to the ministry of the word.
Acts 6:4 AMP
4. Don’t envy sinners, but always continue to fear the Lord.
Proverbs 23:17 NLT
5. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.
One of the things my wife and I feel is our duty as parents is to help to help our son become a mature adult one day who is equipped to handle life. To do that, we often give him the opportunity to make tough decisions. We help him think through rewards and consequences of those decisions to help him build a foundation of decision making principles. Instead of being grateful, he complains. He asks, “Why do you always make me have hard choices?” We answer, “Because life is full of hard choices. The sooner you learn how to make them, the better your life will be.” He is too young to understand that right now, but as parents, we want our child to have the tools necessary for maturity. We don’t mind putting him in tough positions that make him uncomfortable because we know that he will need those skills down the road.
Because you and I are full functioning adults on this planet, we forget that we are in a similar relationship with our Heavenly Father. You and I are His children, and His goal for us is spiritual maturity. Just like a good parent, He will often force us out of our comfort zone to teach us dependence on Him, to produce character or to prepare us for the future. It’s never convenient, sometimes painful, but always productive. His concern is for our growth more than our comfort. He will do whatever is necessary to help us become more like Him. We can complain asking, “Why,” or we can endure and grow.
Isaiah 30:20 says, “The Lord will make you go through hard times, but he himself will be there to teach you, and you will not have to search for him any more” (GNT). God doesn’t abandon you when the going gets tough. He’s right there with you teaching you if you’re listening. The more difficult the situation is, the more of His grace you get to experience. It is always sufficient for your circumstances. I’ve found that going through the hard times have drawn me closer to Him rather than farther away. As C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain.” He loves us enough to do what it takes to help us hear Him, to know Him and to grow in Him. Don’t discount the hard times. God may just be using them to help you know Him more.
If you ever see my son, most of the time it feels like he’s wearing high water pants. No matter what we do, we just can’t seem to keep pants that fit him. He’s constantly growing and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. We always joke with him about it asking him if he can stop it or grow younger instead. Even as a child he knows that you can’t stop growth and that it happens naturally. It’s the same thing in the animal kingdom, with plants and most living things. They naturally grow and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. God designed physical growth to be natural, but he made other types of growth to require effort in order to create it. If you want to grow your knowledge, you need to apply effort in education. If you want to grow your muscles, you need to apply effort in working out. There are many things like this in life including your spiritual growth.
One of the main concerns of the writers of the New Testament was our spiritual growth. It’s not the type of growth that occurs naturally like physical growth. It’s like the others where it requires effort and discipline on our part. They wanted us to know that there’s more to Christianity than just accepting Jesus as our savior. That’s the beginning of a lifetime of growth. Sadly, for many Christians, the stop there or just past that point in their growth. They fail to adopt spiritual disciplines that will help them grow closer to Christ and to become more like Him in their life. The writer of Hebrews, Peter and Paul all addressed Christians to encourage them to move from milk to meat and to go from infants to mature believers (Hebrews 5:12-14, 1 Peter 2:2, 1 Corinthians 3:1-3).
Peter addresses is again in 2 Peter 3:18. He wrote, “But continue to grow and increase in God’s grace and intimacy with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (TPT). Growing into mature believers is our goal, but it requires that we do more than go to church once a week. It requires reading the Bible, doing Bible studies, spending time in prayer, reflecting on Scripture, sharing our faith and applying what we’ve learned. If we do these things, we will grow in God’s grace and in our intimacy with Him. The point of sending His Son to save us was the restore the relationship between us. Growth in relationships don’t occur naturally. It requires that we spend time getting to know the other person. The more our relationship grows with someone, the more we adopt parts of their personality into our life. The same is true when we grow our relationship with God. We become more like Him and that’s His desire for each of us.
I was helping my son prepare for a science test recently. His class was learning about seeds, germination, the parts of a flower and roots. I was going down the study guide asking him questions and he was doing pretty good. I then read a question that said, “What is dormant?” He replied word for word what the study guide said. It was, “Alive, but not growing.” I kept reading the other questions on the guide, but my mind kept going back to that definition. I asked him to define it again. I started thinking how so many of us live dormant Christian lives. We’re alive in Christ, but we’re not growing. Then I started to think about areas in my life that are dormant according to that definition. I believe God wants to wake us up from dormancy and begin the germination process in each of us where our roots grow.
I researched how to wake a seed up from dormancy. I found that the process is called breaking dormancy. I believe it’s pretty similar to how we break out of spiritual dormancy too. The first thing you have to do is soak the seed in water. The water has to penetrate the seed coat that is keeping the seed dormant. For you and i that means we need to saturate ourselves in the water of God’s Word. We have to let it penetrate into every area of our lives removing the things that so easily beset us. We can’t just read the Bible for content. We have to read it to connect with a God, to hear what He has to say and to declare it over the dormant parts of our lives. God is faithful to complete the work He began in you (Philippians 1:6).
In order to break dormancy, a seed also needs oxygen. I can’t help but think of Adam, having been fully formed laying on the ground. He had everything he needed to sustain life, but was laying there. It was then that God breathed the breath of life in him and man came alive. I believe God wants to breathe His breath of life into the parts of our lives that are dormant and bring them to life. Like Ezekiel had to prophesy to the valley of dry bones for breath to come in them, you may need to speak to those dormant areas of your life and speak life back into them. Once we do that, the germination process can begin and the primary root will come out and begin the growth process. Colossians 2:7 says, “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness” (NLT). Growth is around the corner. You can break out of spiritual dormancy.
When my wife and I first got married, I didn’t trust her intuition. She would say, “I don’t think we should go there.” When I asked her why we shouldn’t, she couldn’t give an answer and would just say she had a feeling. If I really wanted to, then I would make the decision and we would go anyway. Something would happen, and she would be right. Other times, she would come home, talk about an issue she had somewhere, and I would tell her how to solve it. It turned out that most of the time, she just needed to vent or process the situation and didn’t need me to solve it. Over time, I’ve learned to be a better husband in these two areas. I’ve learned to trust her intuition and stay quiet (sometimes). We’re both thankful I’m not the same as when we first got married. I’ve matured in several areas and I’ve still got room to grow.
If growth and maturity are expected in spousal relationships, why would we think it would be any different in our relationship with Jesus? You shouldn’t be in the same place you were when you first believed. Growth and maturity are expected. As you spend time in prayer and reading the Bible, your faith and trust in God should grow. With that growth comes behavioral change on your part. Maturity shows up in different ways in us. Instead of complaining or asking God to remove us from His growth and character development processes, we begin to ask Him for the grace to endure them and for Him to create well developed fruit in our lives through them.instead of ignoring the promptings of the Holy Spirit to say something to someone, we push past the fear and trust what He says. Each of us have room to grow, and that maturity happens when we trust God more tomorrow than we do today.
Here are some Bible verses on maturing in our faith.
1. So I run straight toward the goal in order to win the prize, which is God’s call through Christ Jesus to the life above. All of us who are spiritually mature should have this same attitude. But if some of you have a different attitude, God will make this clear to you.
Philippians 3:14-15 GNT
2. So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God.
Hebrews 6:1 NLT
3. So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.
2 Peter 1:5-9 MSG
4. But the spiritual man [the spiritually mature Christian] judges all things [questions, examines and applies what the Holy Spirit reveals], yet is himself judged by no one [the unbeliever cannot judge and understand the believer’s spiritual nature].
1 Corinthians 2:15 AMP
5. When your lives bear abundant fruit, you demonstrate that you are my mature disciples who glorify my Father!
To me, one of the coolest miracles is the miracle of a seed. I have packets of them sitting around. Some are for flowers, some are for vegetables and some are for trees. They can sit inside their packet for years and nothing will happen. However, when I plant them at the right time of year, the miracle begins. In the dark, wet earth, something in the seed wakes up and it begins to come apart as a small shoot makes its way out of it. That shoot pushes back the ground all around it and somehow knows to go upward in search for light. It continues growing in the proper conditions until it replicates in some form the plant or tree that produced it. Then, it produces its own seeds so that another generation can grow.
When I look at an acorn next to an oak, I can’t help but look up and ask God, “How do you fit an entire tree in this little nut?” When I think about it, He does the same thing with us. Each of us have an incredible potential inside of us waiting for the right conditions in order to grow and develop into something incredible. We all have hidden potential that is waiting to be discovered, but it needs the right conditions in order to start growing. Those conditions are usually dark times in our lives where we’re in over our heads and aren’t quite sure which way is up. The world around us seems to be pressing in on ever side, yet out of that, God births things in us that we didn’t know were there.
2 Peter 1:3 says, “Everything we could ever need for life and godliness has already been deposited in us by his divine power” (TPT). Just like every sin lives in you waiting for the right conditions to come out, every good thing lives in you waiting on the right conditions to come out. Don’t run from the pressures of hard times in your life because those are the places where God grows these deposits in your life. You have an incredible potential beyond what you can imagine. Just like a giant tree begins with a small seed, there is a giant in you waiting to come out. As you mature and grow, you will begin to reproduce other people in the faith. You will provide shade for them to grow in, when you have roots that go down deep into God’s Word. Isaiah 61:3 says, “In their righteousness, they (you) will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory” (NLT). There is a tree inside of you waiting to grow.
I’m nowhere near a professional gardener, but I do love planting a small garden each spring. There’s just something about tilling some earth, planting seeds, watering them, watching them grow and then enjoying the results. I’ve noticed though that sometimes my plants produce the minimum amount of vegetables while someone else brings in a bumper crop. Ive learned that there are a lot of variables that make them different. The soil is one of the greatest factors in how well the plants will do. It needs the right amount of vitamins and minerals for the plants I have to help them. There also the amount of water and sunlight they receive as well that will affect how they grow. The more I adjust these three things, the greater the more I can empower them to grow and produce.
As Christians, we’re not so different. Christianity is not just a one time event where we accept Jesus as our savior. It’s a lifetime of growth that comes after His seed is planted in our heart. In Matthew 13, Jesus told the parable where a sower scattered seeds among 4 different soils. Three out of four seeds sprouted, but only the ones in the seeds that were in good soil produced the crop he was looking for. The environment we’re in has a lot to do with our growth. Another thing we can do to empower our own growth is to stay watered in the Word of God. We can’t just live on the water we receive on Sundays. We must get watered daily. Finally, we must be exposed to the Son. Prayer is our time with the Son who causes us to be healthy and to grow. When these three things are consistent in our lives, we will not only grow, but produce fruit which is to create and empower other believers to grow.
Romans 15:2 says, “Our goal must be to empower others to do what is right and good for them, and to bring them into spiritual maturity” (TPT). Every one us need to have the goal of not just maturing ourselves, but to empower others to grow and produce as well. You have the power to create the atmosphere around you. Are your words and actions toward others creating an environment where others can grow? Are you fertilizing the seeds that have been planted in their heart? Does your life reflect the Son? Our goal should be to do these three things consistently. We need to make sure we are headed for maturity, and that we are empowering others to mature as well.
From the very beginning of the Bible, we learn that God is a gardener. It says in Genesis that He planted a garden in the middle of creation. He didn’t simply speak it into existence like everything else. He took the time to plan and decide where He would plant each tree. He carved rivers around it to water it so that it would remain fertile. He walked in it every evening to enjoy it and to care for it. Then He placed Adam in there to be its caretaker. I think growth occurred naturally in that time because when Adam and Eve were removed from the garden, God told them that from now on they would have to sweat to get growth. There would be thistles and other things that would compete for the resources that he would grave to remove in order to achieve optimum growth. It then says that Adam began to cultivate the ground as soon as they left the garden.
God put the desire to create growth in each one of us. Some of us grow gardens. Some of grow families. Some money. In any case, if you look at your life, you’re spending a considerable amount of energy trying to achieve growth somewhere in something. Where we focus our time and energy is really what’s important to us since time and energy are our most precious commodities. What is it that you’re trying to grow? Will it matter for eternity? Is it only for your benefit? Each of us have to look at our lives to see if we’re growing the right things, and if we are doing the right things to create that growth.
2 Peter 3:18 says, “But continue to grow and increase in God’s grace and intimacy with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (TPT). Growth in maturity of our faith is required of each of us. Your Faith is not your pastor’s garden to tend. It’s yours. This message was from Peter, who was the head of the Church at the time. He was telling believers everywhere to own their growth. What are you doing daily to own your own growth? We must make sure we’re watering our lives with God’s Word. We have to pull the weeds of doubt constantly. We need to have a plan for the areas we need to grown in. If you’re going to own your growth, you’re going to have to start cultivating new ground in your faith and do the work of a gardener. Your pastor can give you the tools, but you must do the daily work.
On one of my trips to Israel, we visited one of the places recognized as the place where Jesus was buried. As we walked into the Garden Tomb area outside the current walls of Jerusalem, a person behind me said, “This looks like a cemetery.” I laughed, turned around, and said, “That’s because it is!” The place is beautiful and peaceful. It’s easy to forget where you are as you stroll through the garden. It doesn’t feel like a touristy spot like so many places here do. It’s a relaxing a spiritual experience for sure.
After looking at Golgotha and going inside the tomb, we stepped aside and took communion. As I was holding the bread and the juice, I kept thinking about my comment that it was a cemetery. This was a garden with a tomb in it really. As I thought about that more, and we took communion, I began to reflect on the garden aspect of the place. A garden is a place where things grow. It’s a place where life thrives.
What better place for Jesus to be buried than in a garden, a place of life. Jesus came so that we may have life, and life more abundant. As I looked around this garden, I kept thinking about how it was a reflection of who He was. It was a place of peace for the Prince of Peace. It was full of life like the giver of life Himself. Jesus wasn’t buried in a place that was surrounded by other dead bodies. He was surrounded by life.
As I walked away from that place, there was a small plaque of John 14:6. In that verse, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the LIFE.” I had always focused on the first two, but had rarely thought about what it meant for Him to be the life. He can grow the most beautiful things in our life where it looks like a cemetery. He can speak life into your most impossible situation because there is nothing too hard for Him. Don’t look at the problems in your life as an end. Give that to the Lord and He will turn them into a place of life and growth like the garden near His empty tomb.
Often times, at the end of a lesson, I like to ask the group, “What were your key take aways?” What I really want to know is what they learned and what they’ll implement once they leave. As we go around the room, several people will give the same one. It’s always cool for me when that happens because there was a moment when lots of lightbulbs came on at one moment. They had an epiphany that there is something they’re not doing that’s holding them back, and they need to make a change in that area. If we never have those moments, we’ll keep on doing what we’ve been doing, and there’s little growth in that.
When you and I go through something, I often wonder if God is asking us what our key take aways are. I believe God wants each one of us to learn and grow. We should be constantly moving in the direction He’s leading us into. Along the way, there will be lessons to learn so that we can accomplish something He has for us down the road. God has great plans for each one of us, so we must be ready to learn and adjust along the way. John the Baptist said, “I must decrease, and He must increase,” to explain the change that needs to happen.
David was another person that learned lessons as he transitioned from a shepherd to a king. Before he became king, he shared some key take aways all of us can learn from in Psalm 27:14. He said, “Here’s what I’ve learned through it all: Don’t give up; don’t be impatient; be entwined as one with the Lord. Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope. Yes, keep on waiting—for he will never disappoint you!” (TPT) Because He was able to learn these things and implement them into His life, God was able to exalt him to king. Imagine what God can do in your life if you’re willing to learn what He’s teaching you right now.